The U.S. cattle industry needs a Tea Party-style movement. I’m not talking about revolution or politics per se, but a grassroots involvement to make sure our voice is heard.

Next week, the industry will have its largest gathering of the year at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) convention (Cattle Industry Annual Convention and NCBA Trade Show) in Denver. Literally thousands of volunteer leaders throughout the country will come together to work on a whole host of issues to keep the business environment for our industry sustainable, profitable and fair.

It never ceases to amaze me how many issues the industry faces or how many cattlemen sacrifice their time and effort to work on these issues through NCBA and all the affiliated state organizations. Even more striking is the amount of organized opposition that the beef industry faces, and how good we must be in building demand and protecting our way of life.

There’s never been a more important time for our industry to have an organization like NCBA and to speak with one voice. Of course, the national beef checkoff is equally important, as building demand domestically and internationally is absolutely key to our future.

I can’t say enough about the dedication of the staff and the cattlemen who step forward each and every year to lead our state and national organizations. There are going to be issues that deeply divide this industry, whether it’s mandatory country of origin labeling, the new GIPSA rule on livestock marketing, ethanol subsidies, or even things like dealing with the Humane Society of the U.S.

Democracy is messy and nobody agrees with the results 100%, but it’s our best option and much preferred to the alternatives. It’s a good sign that many who had left NCBA over previous rows over the issues are now returning, and they are returning because they realize that this industry must have one voice.

Still, there are many producers who don’t feel connected to the national organization or their state associations. Certainly, there have been issues that have cleaved the membership historically and recently. The debacle that occurred between NCBA and the Beef Board last summer was an embarrassment and ultimately a failure of leadership at a myriad of levels. It should never have occurred and as an industry we can’t let this kind of circular firing squad continue.

I believe that, as an industry, it is time to reassert ownership over our organizations and to hold them accountable to a much higher degree then we have in the past. The message has to be sent – and heard loud and clear – that we expect more than we got last summer, and we demand more going forward. Far too much sweat and tears have been invested in this industry to allow it to be wasted with petty power struggles.
-- Troy Marshall